Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Minority Voters and the Simple-Minded Stigma

Warning: Long bitch fest.

The 2008 campaign for president is pretty exciting for us minorities, especially if you're a liberal. Watching the Republican presidential debates (which I believe happen every other week simply to give Romney and Giuliani a chance to get their positions on abortion straight) bores the shit out of me. All you need is a black and white television, and you can admire all the White old male candidates and their neatly pressed black suits (although it might be more difficult to find Tommy Thompson's neck this way). However, when you watch the Democratic debates, you see a more varied lot. You got Hillary Clinton to empower women, you got Barack Obama to empower African Americans, you got Bill Richardson to empower Latinos, and you got Dennis Kucinich to empower the Lollipop Guild (a surprisingly firey base, mind you). Obviously, not everyone belongs to only one of these minority groups. I can say that three of the four aforementioned candidates represent parts of my identity that I hold dear. The pundits, however, don't seem to think minority voters are all that complex.

Hardball's Chris Matthews talked about the polls stating that Hillary Clinton is more favored by women with needs (low-income and less formerly educated) and Barack Obama is a favorite of women with college educations.

Chris Matthews: ... Apparently, according to the national polling we just got today, her advantage in the polls over Barack Obama and the other Democratic wannabes is women. And this shouldn‘t surprise us. Women are so proud to have a first woman candidate who has a real shot at winning that they‘re overwhelming supporting Hillary over the other candidates, especially women who have needs. It‘s called “women with needs,” is the category, women who haven‘t gotten a college degree, are working hard there to provide for families or living alone, and they really like Hillary. Could this be the decisive factor in this campaign, women with needs voting for Hillary?

Ron Reagan: ... I‘m not sure that it‘s going to hold or do her so much good in the general election, should she win the primaries. There are other polls out that show that Republican women, 40-some-odd percent of Republican women, would refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. So she still remains a terribly divisive candidate, when you talk about the general population, and still remains the candidate that most Republicans say they would like to run against.

This exchange tells us a lot. First, Chris Matthews seems to think that women will vote for Hillary Clinton for the same reason I preferred Midge over Barbie when I was little: She looks like me, sort of! But Ron Reagan comes to the rescue and assures us that there's still enough sexism in this world that makes Republicans comfortable about running against a woman, because the obviously not sexist Republican women are voting based on policy and not gender. Right? Right?!

Chris Matthews: ... But isn‘t [this] so eventful for women to have to vote for a woman, just so they can say to their daughters, Hey, look, you got a chance to be president, as well as your brother?

*explodes* In my perfect world, Dennis Kucinich would be the nominee, a man who represents my opinions and is (more importantly?) vertically challenged -- like me! I'll only vote for Hillary Clinton if she's the nominee, because I don't trust any of those Republicans! Okay. I must regain my composure. The conversation continues with Todd Harris, former campaign guy for John McCain. This outta be good.

Todd Harris: Well, Chris, I first have to say you talked about changing the terminology with immigration—I love this “woman of needs” term. We used to call them, you know, lower-income, lower-educated, uneducated, but now it‘s “women of needs.” But let me tell you...

Todd, in the words of Kelly, "Oh, by the way, betch . . . FUCK YOU!!!!" Admittedly, every woman has social needs. Some of them are, unfortunately, uniquely women for the most part, like being a single working parent whose partner doesn't pay child support. Or getting payed less than men for more than 180 days.

Thankfully, Chris Matthews redeems himself, as every man with the face of a 12-year-old boy eventually does.

Chris Matthews: [A]re you talking down to women? Let me tell you... I wouldn‘t do that. First of all, it‘s not fair. Secondly, you‘re going to get in trouble by nightfall. ...

Todd Harris: This early in the cycle ... voters—voters tend to look for commonalities. Is the candidate Republican, Democrat, white, black? Very superficial indicators ... and superficial levers—levels. So, it is not surprising to me that she is doing well ... among women. ... But as the campaign develops, that could really change.

*explodes again* When was the last time any voter had to ask themselves "Are they Black/female/whatever?" in a presidential election. Oh, that's right. Never, because this is the first time that two frontrunners aren't White guys! Chris, zing 'im.

Chris Matthews: Todd, you won‘t know. You will never know, Todd, because women don‘t have to tell us who they are going to vote for. It‘s a secret ballot.

*sigh of relief*

Back to my original point that might be somewhere in this long post. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have made this presidential race pretty exciting, because one of them will most likely become the Democratic nominee. But it also gets pundits in this useless discussion that pigeon-holes us and insults our intelligence. I'm going to vote for Hillary Clinton because she's a woman and so am I? What the fuck? This is never considered with men voters or even conservative voters. Men have been voting for men for centuries, and women having been voting for men for 87 years. Do people think that women vote for men, not because they want to, but because that's all who's available? Have women been wandering to the polls for 8 and a half decades to find that there aren't any women on the ballot, just to say "Aw, shucks, I guess I'll vote Democrat. Better luck next time"? Ron Reagan implies that Republican women aren't going to vote for Hillary Clinton because Republican women care about issues, not gender.

So my question is, why the fuck do political pundits have to ruin an imminent historic event of either a woman or an African American having a strong chance of becoming president by reducing minority voters to easily distracted simpletons? Not every voter may be formerly educated, but we do know what we want, even us ladies.

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